Stabilizing New Frontiers

It began with an urgent phone call. Roman Kuzniar, then Director of Strategy and Policy Planning of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Poland, was attending an OSCE conference. The caller informed him that demonstrations had broken out in front of the Hungarian Embassy in Bucharest, and that the protests were in response to the new "secret accords" Roman had drafted between Poland and Hungary. These "secret accords" were in actuality nothing more than an article in a scholarly journal promoting regional cooperation, but when a reporter published the article in the Hungarian press with additional commentary by media outlets in Budapest, a misperception was given that a tacit alliance had formed between Poland and Hungary to divide up the Carpathian Region, the mountainous border region of Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania.


The panicked feedback from some Romanian officials might seem curious in the West, but in a region whose borders have shifted to and fro over the centuries, often at the expense of minorities, such visceral reactions are not surprising. Out of this commotion and confusion, however, came an understanding that the post-socialist harmony was clearly fragile, and spontaneously Polish, Slovak, Hungarian, Ukrainian, and Romanian officials started serious discussions.


By the late spring of 1992, EWI had already deployed staff in this border region and was serving as the Secretariat of the Carpathian Euroregion. That effort would later lead to a decision of the C.S. Mott Foundation to partner with EWI in creating the highly successful Carpathian Foundation.


The Transfrontier Cooperation Programme (TFCP) operated on the EWI philosophy that lasting peace and stability will only become possible when democratic principles and values are actively promoted and have successfully taken root throughout the region. By encouraging local development and the building of transnational institutions, TFCP helped provide common visions and strategies to facilitate economic development, nurture future leaders, and initiate cross-border networks. By working with local governments and NGOs, TFCP demonstrated that in even the most troubled settings, quantitative and qualitative measures can be taken to ensure a respect for human rights and improve transnational cooperation. At that time, Kaliningrad-Lithuania- Poland and Pskov-Estonia-Latvia were focal points for TFCP, along with additional projects in the Balkans.



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Idea No. 14